By Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya. Albert Whitman & Company, 2016. 32 pages. $16.99/hardcover; $6.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 5–8.
Everyone—fathers and mothers, sons and daughters—has moments of defeat practically daily, whether small ones, large ones, or mid-size. But, to draw a metaphor from our national pastime of baseball, we just “keep on slogging”! What else is there to do?
And yet, when morale flags, don’t we all like to recall those ordinary heroes who encountered extraordinary hurdles and cleared them, first by inches, then, by dint of can-do gumption, by feet, then further! Such a model of persistence and passion was William Hoy: an ordinary hero drawn not from myth and legend, although he has become both, but from the celebrated past of American baseball history. William had talent but also no few disabilities. First of all, he was only five feet five inches tall, not a prepossessing height for an athlete. Secondly, he was deaf from childhood due to a bout of meningitis. Did we mention that William’s father, a no-nonsense farmer, shook his head at William’s passionate enthusiasm for, let’s face it, a game not in your average husbandman’s vocabulary, exactly a synonym for work!
Did we mention that William’s mother, as firm a personality as his father, saw in William’s passion for solitary baseball practice around the farm, shoeless and gloveless, a boy who was after a man-sized success? And didn’t William, fueled by his own passion and his mother’s loving, silently encouraging recognition of that passion, change, or rather develop, himself and the game of baseball to boot?!
The author links the stages of William Hoy’s path-breaking career together in a fluid narrative while not skimping on the road bumps. Both the glides and the hitches are well documented enough to satisfy fans of baseball history as well as students of human nature. The dynamic illustrations highlight the physicality of baseball and the joy of hard competition, where inches count. Tuya’s expressive faces reveal a gamut of intense emotions as if we readers and fans have high-powered opera glasses in hand to zoom in and revel in the high passions of baseball.
Any child with team ambitions in whatever sport will enjoy the trials and tribulations of William Hoy. And parents will recognize their own past trials and remember others, from making history to just getting through the day.